Author : David Bradshaw
I always believed that magic was simply what science had yet to explain or tame. When Ashford’s empty frame crashed to the ground, the wild forces at work became far more significant.
“It’s going to be one of mankind’s defining moments!” Ashford ranted in the bunker’s cafeteria earlier that day, “And I’m going to be in the middle of it…” He trailed off, wistfully.
Since we got clearance to run a human trial, he’d been like this, cycling between raving and muttering. Ashford was supposed to be the world’s first living human to undergo transportation.
Ingram snapped at him, “Don’t be a show off. Sit down and eat something.”
“Hell no. Anything in my stomach will just be more for the machine to chug. Besides, I’ve been too jittery to eat much today, too excited,” said Ashford. He kept good spirit, I had to give him that.
I excused myself to get to work preparing the apparatus for the afternoon’s test. The hours disintegrated into minutes, then seconds, and blew away.
Eventually various personnel from the labs trickled in, huddled around the camera for a good view. Despite not being known to the press or public, this was going to be a popular show.
When the whole team assembled, Ashford stepped forward to address his audience.
“This is test 5.1, the first living, human transportation. As you can see behind me, two tanks are positioned side-by-side. I, Dr. Joseph Ashford, will enter the chamber on the left and be transported to the chamber on the right. I assure you,” he said with a grin, “this is not a trick or a joke.”
Ingram could hardly contain a groan. Ashford was just a natural showman, or at least too charismatic for just a scientist.
He stepped into the chamber and gazed confidently upon his fans. The bright white lights on the equipment became stage lighting. The door sealed behind him, a red curtain descending.
All eyes were on the video feed. I began counting down. In my head, a calming habit of mine, I thought the numbers in Latin: Decem, novem, octo, septem, sex, quinque, quattor, tres, duo, unus.
As I stabbed the button deep into the terminal, a thought appeared at the forefront of my mind, “Magic is what science cannot yet explain. We’re standing on the edge of something magic cannot explain.”
In the first chamber, Ashford went to dust. In the second, dust went to bone, to flesh, to skin, to hair, and to a body. It lamely collapsed against the cool metal. As the door automatically pulled open, Ashford’s sepulcher gave birth to his limp corpse.
A dozen scientists in the room, we all started talking. Rushed yet hushed chatter. A skittering cacophony flying across every surface like a cockroach. Ingram checked the thing’s pulse and, finding none, let its arm drop to the ground, unceremoniously.
I looked down at the button I pressed that initiated the sequence that teleported Ashford. I doubted that anything could pull me away from the image of what was let. Guilt couldn’t drive out the horror.
A small voice in the crowd of sound and fury pierced every other word uttered, “Did we… Get his soul?”